Today we would like to demonstrate typical behavior of marines when they are off duty. They get drunk and hurt each other, usually the weaker ones. Some may make the excuse that this “builds character”, or that it “makes you stronger”. That is bullshit.
What this does is piss someone off and make them resent you. Do you think the ones getting picked on will be just as likely to take a bullet for their bullies than their friends? This is not teamwork. This is not a team. This is a mess.
All that behavior like this does is reinforce the popular notion that “Enlisted marines are supposed to be scoundrels. That’s why you get a medal if you stay out of trouble for 3 years” (as my former LT once told me). Frankly, if the marine corps wants to be known as a safe haven for children who can’t control their adolescent impulses, who lack any semblance of self-control, self-restraint, or self-discipline, and who joined because they couldn’t make it anywhere else, then the marine corps is doing just fine. But if the marine corps wants to be known as an elite and highly professional fighting force, then it has a long way to go. – S_The_Mod and NINJA_PUNCH
My final suggestion for this series is bound to be the one that is least likely to be carried out: All officers, regardless of rank or billet, should be limited to 30 years in the Marine Corps, all enlisted Marines should be limited to 24 years, and all promotion criteria should be adjusted accordingly. (As an aside, if promotion requirements are going to be altered, there should also be the addition of MOS-specific testing & “leadership” testing as a promotion requirement. Anybody can run fast, do some pull-ups and accurately shoot a rifle with a scope. If someone is going to be an NCO and fill some sort of leadership role, they should be able to show on paper that they know about their MOS, and that they are at least aware of the basic tenets of Marine Corps leadership.) Frankly, General Amos was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in 1970; that means he’s been an officer for 43 years now. Similarly, Sgt Maj Barrett enlisted in 1981, has been in the military for 32 years, and has spent the last 11 of them as a Sgt Maj.
Does having been in for 30-40 years or more, automatically mean that they’re bad Marines or bad at their jobs? No, not necessarily. I know many Marines have their own opinions regarding the leadership abilities (or lack thereof) of Gen. Amos and Sgt. Maj. Barrett, and frankly, it is beyond the scope of this article for me to defend or condemn them as individuals. What I will say is that being in the Marine Corps for that long is bound to leave you hidebound, institutionalized, and very likely unable even to realize that some changes can be for the better. This is especially evident in Sgt. Maj. Barrett’s comment that “Service Charlie Fridays” is a good idea because it’s the way that it was done when he was a junior Marine, back in the ’80’s. Realistically, maybe “Service Charlie Fridays” was good enough for a decade where the Marine Corps had no major combat operations – maybe it was good enough for an era when you could go nearly 10 years and be promoted to SSgt before going on your first deployment like Sgt Maj Barrett did – but it obviously wasn’t good enough for a decade of war. Bearing that in mind: Why would the Marine Corps – the “tip of the spear” – ever want to go back to policies that clearly weren’t conducive to combat effectiveness? The only possible answer is quite simply that the current Generals and Sgts Maj. are (and were) so hidebound that they only grudgingly accepted those changes at the time.
Limiting Officers to 30 years and Enlisted to 24 years will help to keep new blood circulating into the most senior positions, reducing the institutionalization, and hopefully allowing for greater efficiency, adaptability, and capacity for mission accomplishment in the Marine Corps.
All things considered, I must say that I agree with the General’s intentions; and it is most definitely time to fix the Marine Corps. The problem is that the Generals and senior SNCO’s only seem to be concerned with fixing the aspects of the Marine Corps that aren’t broken.
This concludes my series responding to the top brass’ plans for the Marine Corps. Please comment below and let me know what you think.
Continuing on, I’d like two issues that really go hand in hand: Uniforms, and Ceremonies:
In the past year we’ve seen the reintroduction of “Service Charlie Fridays”, and now there’s the idea of putting Marines on Duty in their Chucks. Apparently the Generals think that this is a good idea because it lets commanders see “at a glance” if their marines are squared away or not, and it reinforces a Marine’s “pride in their uniform”. There are a few problems with this idea:
If – as a commander – you’re judging your Marines by how they look in their good uniforms you’re not going to have any clue who’s squared away and who’s not. The only thing you’re going to know for sure is which of your Marines are most likely to win a beauty pageant. Frankly, if your plan is to send your most beautiful Marines into combat in the hopes that they’ll awe the enemy with their masculine features… well as Generals that’s your prerogative. I’m just saying that I might suggest a different plan, such as making sure that your Marines are proficient in their MOS. Now, I know that any General who might happen to read this would say, “Well, as Maj. Gen. Nicholson already said, lax discipline in garrison leads to lax discipline in country.” Great! I absolutely agree that there should be discipline in garrison; however, there’s a difference between discipline, and rules for the sake of rules. A crackdown on drunken rowdiness is enforcing discipline. Requiring the Alpha Belt to extend 2 – 3/4 to 3 – 3/4 inches past the buckle is a rule for the sake of a rule that has no bearing on whether or not someone is a good Marine. If we were to judge every Marine solely based upon his appearance in uniform, then we would have no choice but to declare Lt. Gen. Puller to be – without a doubt – the biggest disgrace to the uniform that the Marine Corps has ever seen. Yet for some reason during boot camp, Recruits are still taught to revere him as a great Marine. Perhaps that’s because he recognized that a beauty pageant was an exercise in futility instead of an exercise in discipline.
I know this will be a shocker to many Marines (both officers and enlisted), but most Marines don’t take pride in their service uniforms. To be perfectly blunt, Marines love their Dress Blues; usually either because they joined in the hopes that they would get to kill a lava monster and then be miraculously transfigured into a Marine in Dress Blues, or because they know that nearly every time they wear them is a good occasion to get drunk. Regardless, the Blue uniform is fancy and Marines tend to like it. Similarly Marines tend to like the utility uniform. It’s reasonably comfortable, easy to maintain, and has the practical purpose of being useful for concealment in combat zones. The service uniforms, by contrast, have no real purpose. They’re not as fancy as the Blues, and they’re infinitely less functional than the utilities. Effectively they’re just another defunct relic of WWII. Perhaps it’s a bridge too far to suggest it, but to be completely honest the Marine Corps could do away with the service uniforms and have lost nothing in the way of combat effectiveness.
Next we come to the issue of ceremonies. Somehow throughout the entirety of the past decade (despite all of the wars and smaller conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in) the brass and senior SNCO’s have managed to ensure that change of command ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, promotion ceremonies, etc etc still remain a top priority. What’s more, General Amos has now unveiled his plan to have Cpls and Sgts promoted individually so that promotions to these ranks are “meaningful”. To be perfectly blunt, the last thing the Marine Corps needs is another reason to waste time that could be better spent training, repairing broken gear, or any number of other things. How many NCO’s or junior Officers move from one base to another on any given day with nothing more than a handshake or pat on the back from their peers or immediate command? Yet when a Sgt. Maj. or a senior officer leaves the whole unit has to effectively shutdown for a week so a lavish ceremony can be held in their honor.
Instead of continuing with this monumental waste of time, I propose that senior SNCO’s and Officers hold a simpler farewell that wouldn’t require so many enlisted Marines to be taken from their work for no purpose other than to march around for several hours. Perhaps Generals could have a simpler – perhaps even informal – ceremony involving his subordinate unit commanders and officers, and Sgts Maj. could similarly have a farewell ceremony involving only his fellow SNCO’s.
This would not only lead to increased mission accomplishment, and a decrease in wasted time, but also to increased morale in the lower enlisted Marines – who have always been taught that the obectives of the Marine Corps are “Mission accomplishment, and Troop welfare” only to watch ceremony take precedence time and time again.
This concludes Part 3 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Nov 11, 2013) for Part 4!